Trigger warning: Mentions eating disorders
I was only 10 when my Wii Fit first told me I was overweight. I remember stepping onto the balance board and watching as the bar rose up the different colored categories, past the turquoise underweight box, past the golden ideal, and then finally settled in the pink zone: overweight. The thing is, I wasn’t overweight in the slightest; I was just a regular-sized 10-year-old.
Over the last few months, there has been an influx of videos on Tiktok as younger millennials and the older gen z remember what playing on the Wii Fit was really like; being told you were anything from overweight to morbidly obese, recommended you do back-to-back aerobic step workouts to monitor your “dangerously high” BMI, and even the tiny “oh” noise the game would make when you stepped onto the balance board.
For me, my Wii Fit was the start of an unhealthy relationship with my body. A toxic partner I’ve still not managed to totally break up with, even more than a decade later. Before my Wii Fit, I had no idea how much I weighed or where my Body Mass Index (BMI) stood—I didn’t even know what a BMI was, for god’s sake.
Most days after school, I would stand on that balance board and obsess over those colored categories. What would it take for me to lower that bar into the ideal? What would it feel like to be labeled underweight? Sometimes, I would even lie when it asked me how much my clothes weighed, picking the heaviest option in the hope the bar would lower because it was my dress weighing me down, not my body.
I would spend hours doing the recommended workouts. Anything from the monotonous aerobic step exercises to doing yoga cross-legged on my balance board trying to keep the candle alight. And as fun as these games were for 10-year-old me, the Wii Fit would never fail to remind me of the real end goal of the session: to lose weight.
Whether intentional or not, these games promoted the toxic idea that exercise was punishment for overeating and something that should only be done to burn calories and to lose weight. It was only in my teens that I realized exercise didn’t have to be like this, and I could actually enjoy working out.
And I wasn’t the only one whose relationship with their body was affected by this game when they were younger. I spoke to my friend, Joe, who told me, “As a self-conscious child anyway, I was terrified about being publicly weighed in front of my friends—particularly when it calculated your BMI.
“I’d deliberately avoid having to get onto the Wii Fit board; I genuinely felt stressed at the prospect of everybody knowing my weight, which is ridiculous as I was a skinny little kid who weighed absolutely nothing.”
But there’s another side that also needs to be addressed—how the Wii Fit affected those who were told they were dangerously underweight. I also spoke to my friend Annie, someone who has been insecure about how thin she is for as long as I can remember, about her experience playing on a Wii Fit.
She told me, “I had always been ‘gangly’ and thin, despite being that kid who ate literally everything. But I never thought too much of it in primary school. When the Wii Fit said I was severely underweight, it made me even wonder if people thought I looked anorexic. But in reality, I had a very normal diet and a healthy relationship with food.
“About four years ago, I went back onto the Wii Fit as a joke with my friends at university. It was the unhealthiest I’d ever been as I was eating takeaways every day and constantly binge drinking. But it told me I was in the healthiest weight category, along with my BMI.
“Looking back, the Wii Fit kept telling me my body was something that it wasn’t. I know I’m healthy for my size and anatomy—I just have to keep reminding myself that.”
Without a doubt, the Wii Fit caused a whole generation to dangerously obsess over their weight, likely causing a spike in disordered eating and body dysmorphia in people my age, as well. Young children are especially vulnerable to picking up harmful habits around food, and the rates of eating disorders in boys and girls under 12, have only grown in recent years.
wii fit literally contributed to my eating disorder
— jeff (@zooweemama21) April 10, 2019
The worst thing is the Wii Fit measurements weren’t even that precise. Just a year after the game was first released, Nintendo apologized for the game’s body fat readings which “may not be entirely accurate for younger age groups.” Moreover, many experts refute the use of BMI—the very basis of how the Wii Fit calculates a player’s health—as a way of measuring obesity.
Your body mass index (BMI) is based on your height and weight but doesn’t take into account your muscle mass, bone density, overall body composition, or what race or sex you are. It’s absurd that a measurement as inaccurate as this, caused so many of us to obsess about our weight at such a young and impressionable age.
The effects of the Wii Fit on body dysmorphia and eating disorders in younger millennials and older gen z have been overlooked until now—hidden beneath rose-tinted memories of spending hours making your mii (avatar), and days trying to find your center of balance on that goddamn balance board.
But looking back, my Wii Fit caused me to do something no ten-year-old should ever do – worry about their weight. No one that young should know how much they weigh, what their BMI is, or be told that they’re under or overweight. The only label they should have at that age is just ten.
Looking for more content like this? Follow our brand new Instagram account!
Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter.
As The Tempest editors, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll love, too. Just so you know, The Tempest may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Heads up — prices are accurate and items in stock as of the time of publication.